The conception of experiential learning is an established approach in the tradition of adult education theory. David Kolb's four-stage model of experiential learning is a fundamental presentation of the approach. In his work Experiential Learning, Kolb states that John Dewey, Kurt Lewin and Jean Piaget are the founders of the approach. The article discusses Kolb's eclectic method of constructing his model of experiential learning. It studies how Kolb introduces and uses the Lewinian tradition of action research and the work of John Dewey to substantiate his model. It is concluded that Kolb generalizes a historically very specific and unilateral mode of experience- feedback session in T-group training- into a general model of learning. Kolb's interpretation of John Dewey's ideas is compared to Dewey's concepts of reflective thought and action. It is concluded that Kolb gives an inadequate interpretation of Dewey's thought and that the very concept of immediate, concrete experience proposed by the experiential learning approach is epistemologically problematic. The theory historical approach of the article discusses both substantial questions related to experiential learning and the way concepts are appropriated, developed and used within adult education theory.